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Esther Kustanowitz posted her list of the top 10 Jewish movie characters on Idol Chatter. Some are a bit of a stretch — Obi-Wan Kenobi? Melanie Griffith in “A Stranger Among Us?” Aside from the fact that she is only pretending to be a Jew in that film, some people consider that and her performance as a Jew the same year in “Shining Through” to be, well, a shonda (embarrassment to the community).

I would add to this list: Judd Hirsch as the sympathetic psychiatrist in Ordinary People, Meryl Streep as a sympathetic psychiatrist in Prime and as a Holocaust survivor in Sophie’s Choice and as a high-strung food writer in Heartburn, Barbra Streisand as a sympathetic psychiatrist (is there a pattern here?) in The Prince of Tides and as musical comedy star Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (plus Omar Sharif as Nicky Arnstein), Carol Kane as a turn of the century immigrant in Hester Street, Brendan Fraser as the only Jew in the fancy prep school in School Ties, Robin Williams as a club owner named Goldman — or is it Coleman? — in The Birdcage, George Segal as a Jewish cop (and Eileen Heckert as his mother) in No Way to Treat a Lady, Ben Kingsley as a Holocaust survivor in Schindler’s List, Ben Cross as an Olympic athlete in Chariots of Fire, Jessica Tandy as a Southern aristocrat in Driving Miss Daisy, Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein in All the President’s Men, Jennifer Gray as Baby who will NOT be put in a corner in Dirty Dancing, and Woody Allen in just about anything.

My gallery about the best movies to watch when you’re in bed with the sniffles or flu has been posted.
The right movies can help you pass the time until you feel better. They can even help you recover faster, too. Author and editor Norman Cousins pioneered “humor therapy” after he found that watching silly movies and television shows did more to ease his pain and cure his ailment than conventional medicine. Laughter can decrease blood pressure and boost your immune system. So a good comfort movie can not only help you get better faster; it is good preventative medicine as well. It is also a nice way to spend a cold and snowy weekend, even if you are perfectly healthy because it will help keep you that way. After all, Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” And, almost as important, Dr. Netflix does make house calls.

I was not able to make it to this year’s Critic’s Choice Awards in person, but I really enjoyed casting my votes and watching it on television. Here are the winners and keep in mind they are often a better predictor of the Oscars than the Golden Globes:
Best Picture:
“Slumdog Millionaire”
Best Director:
Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best Actor:
Sean Penn, “Milk”
Best Actress:
Meryl Streep, “Doubt” & Anne Hathaway, “Rachel Getting Married” (tie)
Best Supporting Actor:
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
Best Supporting Actress:
Kate Winslet, “The Reader”
Best Writer:
Simon Beaufoy, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best Foreign Language Film:
“Waltz With Bashir”
Best Animated Film:
Best Documentary:
“Man On Wire”
Best Acting Ensemble:
Best Young Actor/Actress:
Dev Patel, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best Composer:
A.R. Rahman, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best Song:
“The Wrestler,” by Bruce Springsteen (“The Wrestler”)
Best Action Film:
“The Dark Knight”
Best Comedy Movie:
“Tropic Thunder”

Den of Geek has made a list of the best movie special effects shots of all time — and the worst.
Special effects go back to the very beginning of film. The first great genius of special effects was George Melies, a stage magician. He was the one who figured out that he could make people appear and disappear by stopping the camera. His film “A Trip to the Moon” is still filled with charm. The rocket ship smashes into the face of the man in the moon. His moon creatures are delightfully acrobatic. The explorers come back to earth by just jumping off!
I visited the German museum of film in Frankfurt and learned that the German word for special effects is “filmtricks.” It has little to do with resources or technology — the special effects in the original 1933 “King Kong” hold up well more than 80 years later, and I think the best special effects of 2008 were in “Iron Man,” where they were almost entirely mechanical and not computer-generated. Just like everything else about the movies, it is the humans who make the difference, not the machines or the money.
Thanks to iorek for the excellent link!

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